BioActives markets celery product as Vioxx alternative

Worcester-based BioActives is using the recent withdrawal from the
market of Merck's Vioxx to try and direct consumers suffering from
arthritis towards its concentrated celery-seed fraction, suggesting
it could be a safe, natural alternative to the now banned drug.

Concentrated celery seed-fraction is based on a proprietary process that extracts phthalides (butylphthalide, sedanenolide and sedanolide) from celery seeds, said the company, adding that clinical tests have suggested that phthalides may have an effect on pain, increase mobility, and establish an increased sense of well-being.

"Celery seeds have historically been used in Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine as a diuretic tranquilizer, anti-spasmodic, nerve tonic, and anti-rheumatic,"​ said Daniel Kagan, president of BioActives.

The phthalides​ in celery seeds appear to act to restore the balance in the body's prostaglandin system - one of the most important chemical control systems in the body that regulates inflammation, pain, and swelling.

BioActives​ concentrated celery seed-fraction is available to manufacturers and marketers of nutraceuticals in two forms: powder for hard capsules or oil for incorporation into softgels.

Companies should be using the Vioxx withdrawal to increase visibility of their products, according to Sheldon Baker, senior partner of California-based communications firm the Baker Dillon Group.

"Major manufacturers should have stepped up to the plate and immediately produced an educational campaign through broadcast and print media to inform consumers about the healthy alternatives for inflammation and overall immune function,"​ Baker said in a release.

"The dietary supplement industry has to enhance and increase its marketing efforts to educate consumers about safe natural alternatives to drugs,"​ added Baker.

Merck withdrew Vioxx from the market at the end of September after results from a long-term study suggested the drug could increase a patient's risk of suffering serious cardiovascular problems, including heart attacks and strokes. In 2003 the drug made $2.5 billion in sales in the US alone.

"Although the risk that an individual patient would have a heart attack or stroke related to Vioxx is very small, the study that was halted suggests that, overall, patients taking the drug chronically face twice the risk of a heart attack compared to patients receiving a placebo,"​ said Dr Lester Crawford, acting FDA commissioner.

The FDA had approved Vioxx in 1999 for the reduction of pain and inflammation caused by osteoarthritis, as well as for acute pain in adults and for the treatment of menstrual pain.

Dr William Judy commented to​ last week that he thought government bodies would henceforth force more long-term trials to be carried out on drugs and supplements in the light of Vioxx's removal.

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